Is it a fact that African lions are very sociable cats?
African lions are the only cats which have close-knit social groups and the only ones that regularly hunt in groups. The basic unit of lion social life is a pride. The classic lion pride consists of 2 to 12 closely related females and their cubs.
Usually 1 to 6 adult male lions that are often closely related to each other attend to the females. The lionesses form the stable core of the pride while the males are exchanged every few years.
The reason why lions are so sociable range from females bonding together to protect young cubs to ensuring adequate numbers when capturing large and potentially dangerous prey.
Why do lions become territorial?
Lion prides with a rich, reliable food supply can afford to be territorial. When food supply is unpredictable the prides have huge home ranges that are too large to defend. In these cases encounters between lions from different prides are very hostile, but actual fighting is rare.
Both lions and lionesses signal their occupation of an area by scent marking with urine and by roaring.
Roars can carry for a good 8 km and advertises a lionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s location. It also shows that an area is occupied and allows pride members to keep track of one another.
What do lions eat?
African lions favored diet are medium and large prey in the 50 to 300 kg range.
In the Kruger National Park their diet consists of impala 29%, zebra 16%, wildebeest 14% and warthog 13%. They will occasionally take larger species like Giraffe, Hippo and young Elephants.
In the Savuti area which forms part of the Chobe National Park in Botswana, African lions kills are buffalo 41% and zebra 29%. Lions may also dig warthogs out of shallow burrows.
Unless they are heavily outnumbered they can displace any other carnivore from its prey. Adult male lions do not make way for other predators.
The presence of male African lions in a pride reduces losses of kills to spotted hyenas.
How effective are African lions when they set out hunting?
African lions do hunt successfully when alone but when they hunt as a group their success rate goes up from one successful stalk in six, to one in three. With larger prey such as buffalo, single lions do not even bother to attack.
The degree of co-ordination among the hunting lions depends on the difficulty of the hunt.
If a small prey is the target, each lion will pursue its own prey. When they have to deal with larger more dangerous target they will cooperate to split a herd or to pull down and kill one animal.
Cooperative hunting increases success rates. In the Etosha National Park when hunting blue wildebeest, single lionesses make 0,28 kills per hunt while groups of 7 make 0,75 kills per hunt.
In many prides African lion males do not hunt, as their manes and large size make them more visible and less successful than lionesses.
Does this fact mean that African male lions are lazy and useless hunters?
How fast can a lion run?
Lions can run at about 60 kilometers per hour, which is too slow to catch antelope in an open chase.
Lion attacks are more successful in long grass and thick bush, when the target is alone and when they are able to stalk close, and on very dark nights.
Chases longer than 300 meters are rare. Lion usually kills by a strangling throat hold or by clamping its mouth over the muzzle of the prey.
Why are African lions so aggressive during meal times?
Every lion has the same goal. Food is energy required for survival. The only way to secure food is to fight for it which means aggression is the norm at feeding time.
When plenty of food is available lions gorge themselves into near immobility.
African lion males swallow up to 35 kg, and females up to 22 kg, which is 15 per cent of their body, weight, at a single meal sitting. This is five times their average daily need.
They are extremely aggressive while feeding; snarling, pawing and snapping at one another. The pride males dominate the females, and may drive them off the kill.
Around a kill the cubs usually fare badly, and starvation is their main cause of death. Cubs that are too young to accompany the hunt are brought to the kill by their mother after she and the rest of the pride have fed and little, if anything, is left over.
What are the lion rituals when it is time for courtship and breeding?
A male and female away from the pride are probably mating, which guarantees constant action. A lioness becomes sexually receptivefor two to four days about once every two years. The pride males detect her condition by scent.
Lions may mate hundreds of times during the three- to four-day estrous of the female. Mating occurs about four times an hour over a period of one to two days and lasts for less than a minute each time.
This prodigious frequency probably stems from the high failure rate of matings. Only, about one in three copulations results in cubs.
By being difficult to inseminate, females are probably ensuring that they conceive to a healthy male.
African males lions play a critical role in protecting cubs from intruding males. For the lioness it provides a level of assurance in that the more persistent the male lion is, the greater likelihood that the male will stick around until the cubs are grown.
Male lions within a pride do not compete for matings. The female may turn her attentions to one of the other pride males as each loses interest in her.
This abundance of sexual opportunities keeps male rivalry at low levels within a pride. Savage and sometimes-fatal fights can however occur if an intruding male is encountered.
After mating you may see both male and female roll on the ground, groom or rub against each other.